Last Thursday (March 5th) might have been pretty uneventful for most of us.
Sure, we were keeping our eye on the news, and we were certainly sad and sorry and maybe even worried for the way this virus has spread throughout the world. But the truth is, last Thursday, the word “pandemic” hadn’t been used yet, and there was not a single case reported in Minnesota. Today a friend and I described it this way: last week we were in the opening scene of a ’90s destruction movie (Dante’s Peak, Armageddon) and the family is hanging out in the living room with a buzzy TV in the background talking about an “outbreak.”
Fast forward to today. For all intents and purposes, the world as we know it has been turned upside down. Like how the cold truly sinks in after you get out of the water after your Polar Plunge, the news is finally sinking in to most of us that our lives are about to be drastically altered for an uncertain amount of time, if they already haven’t.
We’ve all seen the news and memes about the run on toilet paper and hand-sanitizer at places like Target and Costco. And while we all shake our heads (most of us now with a fully-stocked TP supply), Costco and Target might be reporting their single largest revenue week outside of Black Friday.
I’m here to firmly and passionately let you know that this worldwide event is going to hurt a #rochmn small business that you love. In fact, it already has. I’ve talked to several local small business owners in the last 48 hours. Here are some of the decisions that they have made or will need to make in the near future: cutting their small staff due to drastically decreased sales, and projected income loss in the coming months if a quarantine happens. Cancelling family vacations scheduled for the end of the year because they know the effect even one or two “off” income weeks can have on their bottom line. Assessing family food budgets and applying for WIC. Possibly canceling their private health insurance because the premiums are simply too high and income is too uncertain. (Health insurance premiums on the private MNsure marketplace often exceed $1000/month for a family of 4.) The economic ramifications for some small businesses have been so swift, that there have been questions if now is the time to leave it all behind.
Our world is in turmoil. Precious lives are being lost, economies are breaking down, and what should be unifying us, is dividing us while we argue about the severity of it all (ps: it’s serious). While some are stockpiling paper towels and tuna, I’d also encourage you to please think about the dynamic, exciting, unique small businesses that make #rochmn so incredible.
Here’s what small businesses do for Rochester, MN:
- Foster meaningful employment for hundreds, if not thousands, of people
- Create opportunities for entrepreneurs to innovate and diversify the economic landscape in our city
- Enrich the local economy by keeping dollars close to home, while bringing life and community to our neighborhoods
- Sponsor our children’s sports teams and partner with school/community fundraisers
- If the above isn’t enough to excite you, the small businesses in #rochmn are owned by some of the most creative, loving, genius, community-focused, darling, loyal people I have ever met.
I’m asking you to consider using your dollars, as you are able, to help our local small businesses while we weather this storm together. The coffee shop you love around the corner could benefit if you decide to buy your breakfast there once a week (or once a month!). The brewery on the other side of town will be thankful if you decide to throw your birthday party there. The boutique will be eternally grateful if you decide to scout your summer apparel from their racks. The local producer will endlessly thank you for choosing their carrots, potatoes, honey, protein, and hand-made goods.
Here are some additional, tangible ways to support your local small business friends during this time of terrible uncertainty*:
- Shop their sales. If they announce a special sale day or a special offer…shop it! (but then go back and shop again on non-sale days).
- Attend their events. There is nothing that bolsters a small business owner more than a full space. The very sight of lots of people in their stores sets hearts soaring.
- Post and share about them on social media. Love a small business and want the world to know? Post about it! ‘Gram it! Tweet it! TikTok it, I don’t care the platform…just do it. In the social media world think about it this way: a “like/heart” is like a penny, a comment is like $5, a share is like $100, and a personal, handwritten post about why you love them is like winning the freaking lottery.
- Write them an online review. Our society will be scrutinizing their own dollars more than ever now. When they spend, they will want to make it count. Positive reviews mean more than ever now as people carefully research their purchasing decisions.
- Send them a note. If you aren’t able to do any of the above, boost their morale with a heartfelt, sincere note about why you appreciate them.
*(Please heed the recommendations of the CDC, Olmsted County Public Health Services (OCPHS), and local authorities. I’m not asking you to go against their social interaction recommendations. Additionally, many of these action steps can be utilized outside of a pandemic.)
These are truly unprecedented times, my friends. While we face great uncertainty in the coming days, weeks, and possibly months…remember that our community is truly stronger together. After this is all said and done, we need an economy to come back to. Supporting our small business now, will define our city’s success in the future.
Love you #rochmn. Always have, always will.